Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Former foster child inspires as Levi's global ambassador

Eckerd College graduate Ashley Rhodes-Courter is inspiring other young women as a Levi’s Shape What’s to Come ambassador.

Special to the Times

Eckerd College graduate Ashley Rhodes-Courter is inspiring other young women as a Levi’s Shape What’s to Come ambassador.

ST. PETERSBURG

Ashley trusted no one. She'd been yanked from her drug-addicted mother's arms at age 3 and placed in state custody. Foster care.

Over the next nine years, she was beaten, denied food, and once after getting sick, had her face shoved into vomit by a foster mother.

When placement No. 14 turned into adoption proceedings on July 28, 1998, with Phil and Gay Courter of Crystal River, the 12-year-old felt ambivalent. Unworthy.

• • •

Ashley Rhodes-Courter didn't know that with a loving family's support she'd become a child welfare advocate, bestselling author, motivational speaker and a Levi's Shape What's to Come ambassador empowering young women around the world.

"My adoption day wasn't rainbows and sunshine," said the 24-year-old St. Petersburg resident. "I didn't believe in happily ever after then. Eventually love came, and now we're inseparable," she said of her and her adoptive parents. "At the time, I didn't truly believe I was worth being loved."

Rhodes-Courter has become a bit of a celebrity since the Levi's social hub went live in October at en.shapewhatstocome.com. Via the online community, she creates webinars and blogcasts and fields questions about foster care and adoption.

"Millennial women value independence above all," she said. "We're a different generation. Today, women can do anything and there is a huge realm of possibilities."

She is one of five ambassadors in the United States and 20 in the world (there are five in the United Kingdom and 10 in Japan.)

Rhodes-Courter, who posts updates weekly, will remain an ambassador through March.

This isn't her first time in the spotlight. After she submitted an essay about growing up in the Florida foster care system for the New York Times Magazine writing contest for high school students and won, her memoir, Three Little Words, was published by Simon & Schuster Atheneum Books in 2008.

The book made the New York Times bestseller list, and Rhodes-Courter appeared on the Today show, Good Morning America and Montel Williams. She was also featured in USA Today, Teen People and Glamour, and her face graced a 99-cent Cool Ranch Doritos bag.

Still, Rhodes-Courter was surprised when Levi's asked her to become a Shape What's to Come ambassador.

"I couldn't believe it, little orphan Ashley was being given creative freedom and a tremendous platform for permanency," Rhodes-Courter said. "People at Levi had read my book and were inspired by me. I had to pinch myself."

Levi Strauss and Co. awarded each ambassador a grant to continue her work. Rhodes-Courter says the money will help her spend time writing her second book and further her work as a child welfare advocate.

"Ashley was selected as a shapewhatstocome.com ambassador for her dedication to being a voice and an advocate for the thousands of neglected and abused children in America's foster care system today," said Mary Alderete, Levi's vice president of global women's marketing.

"She is truly a woman who is changing the world, and the Shape What's to Come community gives her the platform to share, inspire and grow with other young women interested in social change and youth advocacy."

While Rhodes-Courter offers insight as a former foster child, she also has experience as a guardian ad litem volunteer and recently finished training to become a foster parent.

Rhodes-Courter encourages people to consider adoption.

"I spent 10 years in foster homes and found out that 25 percent of the foster parents I lived with became convicted felons," she said. "Now I have a global platform to speak from and an online community that inspires each other."

>> fast facts

On the Web

To learn more about Ashley Rhodes-Courter and adoption, visit these websites:

Levi's Shape What's to Come: en.shapewhatstocome.com

Three Little Words: tinyurl.com/4l5khar

Adoption in the Tampa Bay area:

heartgallerytampabay.org

Former foster child inspires as Levi's global ambassador 02/01/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 1, 2011 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Comedian and activist Dick Gregory dies at 84

    Nation

    The comedian Dick Gregory rose to national prominence in the early 1960s as a black satirist whose audacious style of humor was biting, subversive and topical, mostly centered on current events, politics and above all, racial tensions. His trademark was the searing punchline.

    Dick Gregory, a comedian, activist and author, died Saturday. [Tribune News Service, 2011]
  2. Winter Haven police investigating armed robbery at Dollar General

    Crime

    WINTER HAVEN — Police are investigating an armed robbery Friday night of a Dollar General store on W Lake Ruby Drive.

  3. Rowdies settle for draw at home

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  4. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  5. 'Free speech rally' cut short after massive counterprotest

    Nation

    BOSTON — Thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-Nazi slogans converged Saturday on downtown Boston in a boisterous repudiation of white nationalism, dwarfing a small group of conservatives who cut short their planned "free speech rally" a week after a gathering of hate groups led to bloodshed in Virginia.

    Thousands of people march against a “free speech rally” planned Saturday in Boston. About 40,000 people were in attendance.